Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Road to Anarchy

Some new ideas ignite my passion like a match to gasoline. Sometimes my wife complains because the language I use implies I'm absolutely positive of what I'm saying instead of just stating an opinion for discussion, pushback, and debate. This is a flaw of mine, to be sure, but I do enjoy duking out ideas because I learn much faster talking to really smart people who disagree with me.

I felt this way about Hypermedia APIs and Bitcoin. More recently, I'm digging into Voluntaryism which is really just a friendly name for Anarchy (not the "civil war" version of the word you're probably envisioning... it's amazing how language can be manipulated).

My journey of exploration started with Bitcoin's libertarian roots. From there I realized the truth in the joke which says the only difference between a libertarian and an anarchist is about 12 months (for me it was much less, it seems, though I'm still not sure if I would consider myself an "anarchist"). Things started bothering me. The logical arguments against the need for a state became quite compelling. I've read books, listened to podcasts, watched interviews and videos and all of it seems to make a lot of sense.

The driving force behind my passion and motivation, I think, has to do with the number 260 million. Some argue government action has killed that many people. Additionally, the voluntaryism Wikipedia page lists Jesus Christ among the notable historical figures in that movement. As a follower of Christ, that immediately peaked my interest. I think he had some pretty good ideas about how to structure society and love people as we all want to be loved.

The search for truth is a perilous journey. You may have to question everything you know. You may have to throw out ideas which you previously wholeheartedly defended. This is how humanity progresses forward. This is how we develop moral ways to pick cotton.

In this post I'll attempt to summarize the ideas I've collected from various sources up to this point. I'm beginning to think the state may be irrelevant and voluntaryism may be an effective way to organize society. I'll link below to many of the resources I've consumed over the last few months and will probably add more over time. I really hope you give them some of your attention.

One of the foundational concepts is the NAP: the non-aggression principle. It's a moral framework which argues any human action which initiates violence against another human is illegitimate. Additionally, the concept of property rights arises because without it you're stuck with a logical fallacy. If there is no such thing as owning something, how can one person steal from another since they couldn't maintain ownership of the thing they steal?

The next conclusion I've heard discussed is that if we own our own bodies, then actions like rape and murder are violations of our property rights. If initiating violence is a universally immoral act, why is it one of the things the government and the state is said to be needed for? They have a monopoly on the creation of currency and on the use of violence. Would individuals kill millions of people without the state?

It seems throughout history only governments participate in these activities at such a mass scale. If we believe humans are so evil and corrupt and they cannot be trusted without a centralized authority, then why do we think it logically follows to take a subset of those humans and put them into positions of absolute central authority? These same humans have been shown time and time again to lie, cheat, and steal in order to obtain and maintain power. We have a high concentration of psychopaths, megalomaniacs, and narcissists in political office. They seek out power.

If power corrupts and humans are corruptible why do we create and support systems and structures that centralize power which only increases over time?

In spite of the data suggesting 260 million people may have been killed because of illegitimate rulers, many statists argue against anarchism ("Who's going to build muh roads?"). If the state has always been the provider of bread, the same argument would be made when thinking about privatizing bread production. They say we can't trust the markets to accomplish this or that, but really the market is just a free voluntary exchange of value. Not trusting the market really means we want to initiate force and use violence so our way is implemented instead of what is mutually agreed upon.

There are many who argue a limited government would be ideal. They argue government is needed for things like national defense and justice. Arguments can be made to the contrary (private security forces, arbitration and reputation services, etc), but I think history does a better job of explaining why these ideas may be shortsighted. The smallest governments in the world tend to create the most prosperity. They also eventually grow into the largest governments. If government is a cancer, I'd rather have no cancer at all.

Some define government as a group of people who are given rights no other human has and which are morally unacceptable (such as the violation of the NAP). There is no moral argument which can justify setting up such a structure.

As we learn more about psychology and the way the human mind works, the manipulations in place attempting to justify illegitimate authority become clear. These are mind hacks; propaganda and PR pioneered by people like Edward Bernays.

If taxation, for example, is actually theft, it's quite amazing how we have been programmed to believe it is our moral duty. People mention a social contract, though a contract implies a voluntary agreement. Most people don't know there was no mandated federal income tax prior to 1913. We don't need taxes in order to accomplish social goals. Using violence to force one group of people to give their earned value to another group of people (or worse, to build the war machine) is immoral, no matter what label you give it.

Governments create monopolies and enable corporations to have powers no individual has and no group of people should have. Without the air of legitimacy governments create, I believe many of the corruptions we deal with today would evaporate. The market isn't free because almost every aspect of it is controlled by central authority. Will there be new problems? Sure. Free markets solve problems better than centralized bureaucracies.

Now onto my personal view: I believe the purpose of a thing is defined in the mind of its creator. If someone builds a table, a chair, or a car, they define the purpose of that creation. If human beings have a creator, that creator has established their purpose. Based on property rights, it follows the creator has absolute authority and ownership of those created beings. I personally believe God, through Jesus, gave up that authority by giving us free will. A good analogy for this would be our own children. Though we created them, and as babies our authority over their life is essential, if we do our job well as parents we will eventually give up any authority over them so they can become completely separate humans.

What if the controlling, domineering human authority we see around us today is actually a myth? What if government is just a system of control? Even in the Old Testament God continually told his people they should not have a king. The king didn't create the people, so what authority could the king legitimately have?

Deep in our very being, we know, even as young children, we were born to be free. Freedom and liberty have to be systematically removed by educational processes for humans to believe in non-freedom.

Anarchy isn't about no rules, no law, or no consequences. It's about voluntary exchange as the basis for human interaction. It's about peaceful parenting to remove the root causes of many of the psychopathic actors we see in society. Epigenetics can even show us what type of early childhood abuse took place in these sociopaths via brain scans. Many of the fears we have about an uncontrolled society could become irrelevant if enough education and support was provided to parents to raise their kids without violence, coercion, or oppression.

Many will dismiss this idea as an unrealistic "utopia." If you use that word, you'll be using the parts of your brain which deal with fairy tales, not logic and fact. It's much easier to dismiss than to rationally consider. The more I learn about it, the more I think it models The Way or the Kingdom of God which Jesus and his early followers were known for.

Unfortunately, it seems atheists are the ones most commonly spreading these ideas of voluntaryism and anarchy while the religious are the ones saluting the flag and calling for people to vote for their favorite candidate as if this time their version of morality will be effectively legislated.

Jesus, arguably one of the greatest leaders and influencers in history, never used violence (the initiation of force) or coercion. Those who followed him did so voluntarily. Unlike what you may have been taught in Sunday School, he also wasn't a pacifist. He made a whip to defend his father's house and drive out the thieves and moneychangers.

Whether you're an atheist, Christian or follow some other religion, you most likely see problems in the world and want to make it better. Thinking differently about government may be the first step towards that better world.


Stefan Molyneux
The Story of Your Enslavement 13 minutes
Beautiful Freedom 18 minutes
Beautiful Freedom Part 2 23 minutes
Everyday Anarchy 3 hours, 44 minutes (audio book)
Introduction to Philosophy (podcast, 18 episodes)
Philosophical Parenting (podcast, 75 episodes)
Murray Rothbard
For a New Liberty 7+ hours (audio book)

Larken Rose
Free Your Mind 2 Conference 2013 54 minutes
(Actually, just watch all his YouTube videos)

Law without Government: Conflict Resolution in a Free Society 10 minutes

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Open Letter to My Old Boss Dave Ramsey About Bitcoin


Let me start by saying I have great respect for you. I worked for you for just under four years, and it was the best job I've ever had. You've helped millions of families, including my own, get out of debt and make sound financial decisions. You're one of the smartest, most successful people I've ever had the privilege of learning from.

I also respectfully think you've made a mistake with your stance on bitcoin.

On April 8th 2013, I sent you an email making myself available as a resource related to Bitcoin. You were kind enough to reply with "I have no idea what you are talking about. I am sadly ignorant of that world." My intention was to help you be a well informed voice in the media on this issue.

I remember when you expressed negative opinions concerning social media, you turned to those with more experience to make a case for its value. Now with over a half a million Twitter followers, you'd probably agree it was wise to change your opinion there.

I believe Bitcoin will be bigger than Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube combined. I've argued it could be more disruptive than the Internet. Investor / entrepreneurs such as Chris Dixon and Marc Andreesen (the creator of the first web browser) feel the same way. Andreesen compares Bitcoin in 2014 to personal computers in 1975 and the Internet in 1993.

The most incredible thing about Bitcoin isn't the currency (bitcoin). It's the protocol (Bitcoin), a system of rules for maintaining a decentralized public consensus network. A trust-less system controlled by math (cryptography), not central planners. It may end up being one of the most transformative inventions of my lifetime.

Someone brought this video to my attention today where you ask, Is Bitcoin a Good Investment? I also found your blog post where you say you don't like it one bit.

I agree with your assessment it's unwise and stupid to keep a life savings in the hands of a third party. MtGox is not Bitcoin. It's a poorly run centralized exchange which the Bitcoin community has been telling people to avoid for many months, if not years.

In the video you mention problems with the pre-FDIC banking system and with trust and transparency in general. You also give a great explanation as to what gives money valuethe extent someone else wants to trade for it. I applaud you for clearly saying our fiat currency paper money "never really had value" either, other than what people are willing to trade for it.

(Side note: I've purchased electronic equipment, a TV, advertising for my company, and a hotel stay using bitcoin).

You start losing me around five and a half minutes in when you start discussing bitcoin and how it's "looking like it's not going to make it." The "death" of bitcoin has been reported so many times over the last few years, it's really becoming ridiculous for the media industry. You further describe "intelligent people, while intelligent are not wise" who have purchased bitcoin. I think much of wisdom comes from experience.

Dave, you have little or no experience when it comes to open source, peer-to-peer cryptographic currencies. As you said in your email last year, you are "ignorant of that world." Your recent comments indicate you haven't yet done your research.

Calling bitcoin the "Iraqi Dinar of the Internet" communicates ignorance of what bitcoin is. You describe it as "something whacko like that" and a "made-up computer game." You're convinced people who believe in this technology (and the currency on top of it) are "stupid and will lose their money."

How can you be so sure? Have you studied how it solves the Byzantine Generals' Problem? Do you know how the Bitcoin protocol could potentially replace centralized financial and trust systems such as notaries, escrows, trust funds, stock exchanges, clearing houses, payment networks, checking and savings accounts, etc...?

Do you know how disruptive and beneficial programmable money could be to society? Have you thought about the opportunities for freedom which will be created when individuals can control their own store of value, even if they are unbanked in a third world country with nothing but a cell phone?

For me, this comment summarizes your current level of understanding: "One of these computer nerds just flips a switch, the whole freaking thing is gone." Did you know the decentralized Bitcoin network has more computing power (be it for a very specific purpose) than the major super computers of the world combined? There is no centralized "switch" to turn off. Also, unlike M0 (physical money) which makes up around 8% of the money supply, most bitcoin are stored in offline wallets also known as paper wallets. This digital currency is more physical that the money you use every day.

Just as peer-to-peer systems disrupted the music industry, this can not be stopped. Blockbuster may have disliked Netflix's approach, but that didn't prevent Blockbuster from becoming irrelevant.

The good news is, you probably have a few years before you have to reevaluate your stance on bitcoin. Bitcoin is very volatile and will probably remain so for years to come. If it becomes as revolutionary as some believe, your current stance could hinder your credibility as a financial guru. As you've helped myself and so many others, I'd hate to see that happen. My hope is you'll follow the same path as other skeptics who did their own research and eventually came to the conclusion bitcoin is here to stay.

My original offer still stands. If you'd like to know more about Bitcoin, please let me know.


Luke Stokes

P.S. With a small investment of time, you can understand the Bitcoin protocol and the bitcoin currency. :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Understand Bitcoin in 30 Minutes

As more people hear about Bitcoin in the media, more people ask themselves, "What the heck is a Bitcoin?"

I think it could be one of the most important and disruptive inventions of my (and your) lifetime.

If I'm right (or maybe only partly right), maybe you should invest some time into learning about it now. How about 30 minutes? That's not too long, right? We'll start slow. Ready?

Let's start with this post from successcouncil copied and reposted by sumBTC in the Bitcoin subreddit:
I say... the Internet makes everything better right? Email is better than sending letters, Google is better than card catalogs at a library. But we didn’t have real Internet money until recently. It turns out there was a really good reason: How do I know you didn't copy your Internet money and send it to someone else before you sent it to me? Meaning, you used the same money twice. Well this long standing problem only got solved a few years back by some unknown genius and now we have real Internet money. Soon the whole world will be using it, just like Email and Google.
So... Internet money. Cool. But it's more than that... if you're a visual / audio learner, hit up this 4 minute intro video:

Here's another great read which will eat up 6 minutes: Explain Bitcoin Like I’m Five.

At this point, you have the basics. And we're only 10 minutes in!

OK, now we're moving past the kid's stuff. Time to put on your big boy pants. This is the original and best description of the entire system. The original Bitcoin Paper by Satoshi Nakamoto (whoever that is). Go ahead and give it a read. It will take about 20 minutes. If you're more of an audible learner, you can listen to Stefan Monyluex read it to you here.

I started learning about Bitcoin over a year ago and unfortunately did not read the Bitcoin Paper early on. I opened it up, saw academic looking diagrams, scary math symbols and such and quickly closed it. Please, try to give it a read. It's only 8 pages. If you can get through it, you'll understand more about Bitcoin than many of the reporters I've seen commenting on it over the last year.

30 minutes isn't too much of an investment for understanding this incredible system. The next time someone mentions Bitcoin, tell them you've read the original paper. They will be impressed.

If this post saved you some time, feel free to send a portion of that saved time to me as bitcoin. You can use your normal average hourly rate :) 1KkCSkdjsjQyxfTbrZrrnsY31XZziWzhzN

Did that do it for you? Do you get it now? Please leave a comment and let me know. Also, please share your favorite resources explaining Bitcoin.

Some other posts I've done you may enjoy:

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Twitter is stealing from my blog

This blog exists as a projection of myself. It doesn't have some larger financial or career agenda. As such, I don't give it the focus it deserves. I've further noticed other outlets are stealing from my blog. Microblogging lets off the steam between my ears, usually 140 characters at a time.

Twitter is making me a terribly inconsistent blogger.

Instead of fighting that truth, I thought about embracing it and making a post about some of my favorite tweets over the last few months. Maybe I'll extend it to a full year, eventually. I mostly excluded links to great content or my favorite replies and RTs.

Cheating? Maybe. But hey, it's my content, right?

Hope you enjoy my ramblings. Follow me over at @lukestokes for more (which, admittedly, has been mostly about Bitcoin lately).

Have you ever put together a blog post of your favorite tweets? If so, link it up in the comments.

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013